We’re basically 2 months into the MLB offseason, and the Royals have been quite active. They’ve signed Jason Vargas to a 4 year, $32 million contract. They acquired Norichika Aoki via trade. They signed Omar Infante to a 4 year, $30.25 million contract. And most recently, the Royals acquired Danny Valencia from the Orioles in a trade.
Every move seems to have been made to improve the major areas of weakness on the roster. Vargas probably won’t repeat Ervin Santana’s performance from last season, but he does offer stability and depth to the rotation. Aoki should be an improvement in right field. Infante appears to be a big upgrade from previous Royals’ second basemen. And Valencia offers the potential for a platoon situation at third base with Mike Moustakas.
With all that being said, I wanted to get an idea of how my fellow Royals’ fans have felt about the franchise’s offseason to this point, so I threw this out on Facebook and Twitter yesterday:
#Royals fans, what one word would you use to describe the team’s offseason thus far?
— Kings of Kauffman (@KingsofKauffman) December 27, 2013
The responses revealed a few things. First, there were almost zero negative words used. There were multiple people who said the offseason has been “promising,” “encouraging,” “productive,” and “impressive.” One used the word “contender.” A few fans were not overly enthused, calling the offseason “meh” and “okay,” but that was basically the extent of it. Second, I learned the meaning of the word “erinaceous,” which led to this fantastic photoshop of Infante as a hedgehog, courtesy of @TylerDrenon. Finally, the responses I received showed that there are still fans who want to see more. Some of the words from fans in this camp were “incomplete,” “almost,” and “MOAR.”
That last group is where I find myself. Before asking the question, I was going to use “incomplete,” but since that one is taken and I feel obligated to come up with my own original thought, I’ll say the Royals’ offseason to this point can be summed up with this word:
I realize using a conjunction instead of an adjective looks weird in this context, but stick with me here. I like having Vargas in the rotation, but he’s more of a number 4 starter, and 4th starters shouldn’t normally get 4 year contracts. Aoki is a solid leadoff hitter, but he doesn’t have any real power to speak of, and the Royals only have him under contract through next season. Infante is coming off a very good season, but his offensive value is very average-dependent, and that length of contract for a 32 year old second baseman seems to be too long. Valencia is a solid platoon option, but he’s terrible against righties and isn’t good enough defensively to be a full time third baseman should Moose struggle.
I’m sure I could come up with similar criticisms for every move made by every MLB team, however, I believe these drawbacks could be minimized if the team did just a little bit more. I really do think the Royals have had a solid season, but they simply cannot be done yet. The rotation is still missing that number 2 starter, and without that piece, the gap between the Royals and the Tigers will likely remain too large to overcome. Trading for Jeff Samardzija or Jake Peavy would be excellent options. Peavy is only under contract for 1 more season (his player option for 2015 won’t kick in unless he pitches over 250 innings next year), and the cost to acquire him may not be too steep. Samardzija will likely cost too much in prospects right now, but he’s still on the right side of 30 and has 2 years of team control left.
I really like the potential of Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura as starters, but the success of the 2014 season needs to rely on more than just potential out of 40% of the rotation. Adding a legitimate second starter will allow Ventura more time to develop his changeup, or it could keep either of their workloads down a little bit more. Either way, I would feel much better about the Royals’ offseason moves if they were to just go out and get that one final piece. Bring another starter into the fold, and I think I’d join the ranks of those fans calling the offseason “impressive,” and consider the team a true “contender.”